Angelini v. Balt. Police Dep't

Decision Date02 June 2020
Docket NumberCivil Action No. ELH-17-2354
Citation464 F.Supp.3d 756
Parties Steven ANGELINI, Plaintiff v. BALTIMORE POLICE DEPARTMENT, Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Maryland

Jeremy M. Eldridge, Kurt E. Nachtman, Law Offices of Eldridge and Nachtman LLC, Michael E. Glass, The Michael Glass Law Firm, Baltimore, MD, for Plaintiff.

Justin Sperance Conroy, Kay Natalie Harding, Michael G. Comeau, Baltimore City Department of Law, Baltimore, MD, for Defendant.


Ellen L. Hollander, United States District Judge In this employment discrimination case, plaintiff Steven Angelini, a police officer with the Baltimore City Police Department ("BPD") since 2006, has sued his employer, claiming that he has experienced a sustained campaign of harassment and retaliation that began after he reported a homophobic incident in October 2012. ECF 1.1 The Second Amended Complaint (ECF 49), which is the operative complaint, contains two counts: "Sexual Harassment, Sex Discrimination and Retaliation," in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ("Title VII"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. (Count One); and invasion of privacy (Count Two). In the text of Count One, plaintiff asserts: "Plaintiff's sex and his complaints of sexual harassment and retaliation were motivating factors in Defendants’ decision to treat Plaintiff differently and subject him to a hostile work environment." ECF 49, ¶ 103.

Following discovery, the BPD moved for summary judgment, pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 56. ECF 66. The motion is supported by a memorandum of law (ECF 66-1) (collectively, the "Motion"), and thirty exhibits. ECF 66-4 to ECF 66-35.2 Angelini has abandoned his claims for sex discrimination and invasion of privacy, but he opposes summary judgment as to his hostile work environment and retaliation claims. See ECF 77 (Opposition); ECF 77-1 (Memorandum) (collectively, the "Opposition"). Plaintiff has also submitted forty exhibits. ECF 77-3 to ECF 77-40. The BPD has replied. ECF 81 ("Reply").

The Motion is fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary to resolve it. See Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons that follow, I shall grant the Motion.

I. Background3
A. Factual Contentions4

Plaintiff was born in Baltimore City and raised by his parents, Salvatrice and Nello Angelini. See ECF 77-39 (Angelini Deposition) at 4, Tr. 14, 16-17. Today, Angelini resides in Baltimore County with his wife and teenage daughter. Id. at 4, Tr. 14-15. He identifies as heterosexual. Id. at 16, Tr. 64.

In 2006, Angelini joined the BPD as a Police Officer Trainee. See ECF 78-2 (Redacted BPD Personnel Kardex). Shortly after completing his training, plaintiff was assigned to the "Northwestern District." Id. He served there from June 2007 until November 2008, when he was transferred to the "Violent Crimes Impact Division" ("VCID"), where he conducted covert counter-narcotics operations. See id. ; ECF 77-39 at 7, Tr. 26-29. Although plaintiff enjoyed working at VCID, he began to feel "burnt out." ECF 77-39 at 8, Tr. 32. Plaintiff requested a transfer and was moved to the "Southeastern District" (the "SED") in February 2010. See ECF 78-2; ECF 77-39 at 8, Tr. 30-33. It is undisputed that, prior to plaintiff's transfer to the SED, he had no workplace issues. See ECF 67-1 at 2; ECF 77-1 at 2.

Sometime in 2011, Major William Davis asked Angelini to select a fellow officer to serve in a specialized unit within the SED. ECF 77-39 at 9, Tr. 36. Plaintiff selected Officer Daniel Quaranto. Id. ; see ECF 77-3 (Quaranto Deposition) at 3, Tr. 7-9. From the work in that specialized unit, plaintiff received several commendations, including Officer of the Month and Baltimore Ravens NFL game tickets. See ECF 77-3 at 5, Tr. 14. During this assignment, which lasted approximately one year, plaintiff was directly supervised by Sergeant Kenneth Williams. ECF 77-39 at 9-10, Tr. 37-38; see ECF 77-3 at 6, Tr. 18.

In January 2012, Angelini discovered that his father was bisexual and was having an extramarital affair with another man. See ECF 77-39 at 11, Tr. 41-45. As Angelini recounted at his deposition, he would often visit his parents while on patrol because they lived in the SED. Id. at 11, Tr. 44. One day, while plaintiff was at the front door of his parents’ house, he peered through a window and saw his father engaging in oral sex with another man. Id. at 11, Tr. 45; see also ECF 77-3 at 5, Tr. 16-17. Plaintiff was "devastated" to learn of the affair and was "shocked" and "hurt" by what he observed. ECF 77-39 at 11, Tr. 45.

The parties dispute the extent to which the sexuality of plaintiff's father became a topic of conversation among BPD officers serving in the SED. Plaintiff maintains that his father's ex-boyfriend began to stalk and harass his father, resulting in the police being called to the Angelini household "multiple times." ECF 77-39 at 13, Tr. 52; see ECF 77-1 at 3 n.2.5 Angelini testified that shortly after the police were called to his parents’ house, he was approached by a BPD officer in the station parking lot, who asked if his parents lived in the area. ECF 77-39 at 13, Tr. 51. The officer allegedly "said that [his] mom and dad ha[d] a[n] issue going on," and plaintiff responded that he did not want to discuss the matter. Id. at 13, Tr. 53. Angelini maintains that his father's sexuality was a topic of water cooler conversation. See id. at 14, Tr. 54-55.

Other BPD officers acknowledged knowing of incidents involving Angelini's father. Officer Quaranto testified that he responded to the Angelini family household and created a police report detailing damage to the vehicle belonging to plaintiff's father. ECF 77-3 at 5, Tr. 15-16. Sergeant Ettice Brickus, who served in the SED at the relevant time, recalled overhearing officers discussing a domestic disturbance involving Angelini's father and another man. ECF 77-38 (Brickus Deposition) at 6, Tr. 18. And, Sergeant Derwin Jackson, who also served in the SED, testified that he had heard that Angelini's father was gay or bisexual. ECF 77-23 (Jackson Deposition) at 49.

With the exception of the interaction in the station parking lot, plaintiff could not recall a BPD officer mentioning his father. ECF 77-39 at 14, Tr. 54. In the same vein, Officer Quaranto testified that he never overheard other officers discussing Angelini's family. ECF 77-3 at 5, Tr. 17. And, although Sergeant Brickus heard other officers discuss a domestic disturbance, she clarified that the officers were discussing the day's service calls and there was "nothing unusual" about the conversation. ECF 77-38 at 15, Tr. 57.

Plaintiff claims, however, that he became the subject of sexually offensive ridicule. See ECF 49, ¶ 15. Plaintiff testified that "sometime between 2011 and 2012" a penis and balls along with the words "Baby Dick" were drawn in the dust covering the front hood of the police vehicle that he shared with Officer Quaranto. ECF 77-39 at 89, Tr. 356-57. Then, on October 2, 2012, one of the bathroom stalls in the men's locker room in the SED station was marked with graffiti that said "Angelini + Quaranto R HOMO'S!!" See id. at 15, Tr. 59-61; see ECF 67-4 (Graffiti image); ECF 67-5 (10/2/2012 Command Investigation Report); ECF 66-7 (10/3/2012 Complaint). Upon seeing the image, plaintiff went "straight to" Sergeant Williams and "immediately" reported that he was disturbed. ECF 77-39 at 15, Tr. 60.

Sergeant Williams opened an investigation concerning the graffiti. See ECF 67-5. In a "Command Investigations Report" dated October 4, 2012, Sergeant Williams wrote that after receiving Angelini's complaint, he went to the bathroom, photographed the graffiti, and then colored over it with a marker. Id. ; see ECF 67-6 (Crossed-out graffiti). Sergeant Williams further reported that Officer Angelini "stated he did not want to write ... an administrative report and he felt this action was childish on the behalf of the person who composed it." Id.

Plaintiff acknowledges that he initially told Sergeant Williams that there was no need to investigate the incident. ECF 77-39 at 16, Tr. 63; see ECF 77-7 (Angelini Affidavit), ¶ 5. He recalls that Sergeant Williams told him that the graffiti was "not a big deal" and "just guys doing what they do." ECF 77-39 at 15, Tr. 60; see id. at 16, Tr. 63. In response, Angelini told Sergeant Williams: "[Y]ou know what sir, don't even worry about it. Don't even—don't even—don't worry about it. Don't worry about it. I'm—I don't care anymore. Don't worry about it. Don't do an investigation. Don't do nothing." Id. at 16, Tr. 63. Angelini explained that he hesitated to pursue the incident because he feared retaliation. ECF 77-39, at 17, Tr. 66-68.

However, the next day, October 3, 2012, Angelini completed a "Form 95" documenting the incident. See ECF 67-7 (10/3/2012 Form 95). According to plaintiff, a Form 95 is simply a means to record an event and can be created "for any reason." ECF 77-39 at 35, Tr. 140-41. In the Form 95, Angelini stated that he "didn't want to write a 95 because [he] didn't want to make a big ordeal out it" and "because [he] feared that [he] would be retaliated against." ECF 67-7. However, plaintiff felt that the graffiti was "offensive." He wrote: "The comment ‘homo’ effects [sic] me personally." Id.

In the Form 95, plaintiff requested a transfer to another district pending the investigation. Id. The same day, plaintiff completed a "Request for Transfer Form 70" (a "Form 70"). See ECF 77-4 at 1. Plaintiff explained that he made the request because he "didn't feel welcome at Southeast anymore." ECF 77-39 at 17, Tr. 68-69.

BPD's Equal Opportunity & Diversity Section ("EODS") investigated plaintiff's complaint, which culminated in a report issued on November 21, 2012. ECF 67-9 (11/21/2012 EODS Report). According to the Report, an EODS investigator spoke with Officers Angelini and Quaranto and Sergeant Williams but could not ascertain who was responsible for the graffiti. ECF 67-9 at 1. Therefore, "[b]ased on the...

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